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1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Battalion War Diary April 1918

Place  Date          Diary Notes                                  

 At 10 a.m. the Composite Battalion evacuated the village of GENTELLES and moved into the fields.  At 3 p.m. they took up a position S of the village (BERTHEAUCOURT-GENTELLES line between the AMIENS-DAMART Road) where they relieved stragglers of 20th and 50th Divisions.  The day passed without incident and at 9 p.m. on 2nd the Battalion was withdrawn to the AMIENS-ROYE ROAD where they embussed at 1 a.m. on 3rd.  Debussing at BRIQUEMESNIL the Composite Battalion was disbanded and 1/5th Gordon Highlanders proceeded by road to Billets in ST MAULVIS, arriving there on the afternoon of 3rd.

  ST MAUVIS  4-10 April  From 4th to 10th organization and training of the Battalion was carried out as far as the limited strength would permit.  The strength of the Battalion at this time was approximately 18 officers and 414 other ranks, including detached personnel.  Fighting strength 4 officers and 60 other ranks.  During the period a few reinforcements joined and the following officers:- Captain Watson, Lieuts Webster, Skinner, Wishart, Cheyne and Copland (off leave).  On the afternoon of 10th the Battalion marched to HANGEST-SUR-SOMME where they entrained for CALONNE-SUR-LYS.  Owing to the enemy operation in the North the destination was subsequently changed and the Bn detrained at STEENBECQUE on the morning of the 11th. Buchan Observer 24/3/1918: Lieut Duncan Skinner who has been severely wounded, is in a London hospital.He obtained his commission 3 years ago and had been at the front for only a short time.He is a well known Fraserburgh fishcurer and a son of Mrs Skinner, Cortiebrae, LonmayBuchan Observer 30/4/18:Lieut E.G. Wishart, died of wounds received in action, was the youngest son of Mr F.W.F Wishart, Hill of Fiddes, Foveran.He was 21 years of age and had acquired the tenancy of the important farm of Westerfolds, Duffus. 
 MERVILLE  11 April Immediately on detraining,  packs were dumped and the Battalion in fighting kit embussed for ST FLORIS from where they marched in small parties to MERVILLE and gained touch with 50th Division on the left and 51st (Highland) Division on the right.   A position was taken up running from K36 a. 4. 6. to K 35.d.5.3 in accordance with [order number unclear].  About 9 p.m. the Bosche were reported to be in the vicinity of L. 26. a and were advancing toward MERVILLE.  During the night of 11th/12th the situation was rather obscure especially on the left.  Many contradictory rumours and reports being received from various persons.  On the morning of 12th the enemy commenced about 9 a.m. sniping from the left flank, from which it appeared that they had worked round MERVILLE, crossing to North side of canal during the night or early morning.  The retiral of 50th Division on this flank necessitated our rapid withdrawal in the course of which we came under heavy machine gun fire and sustained considerable casualties.  The fighting at this point was confined to detached parties of men firing on the enemy from behind houses etc.  The Battalion reformed on the road running through Q 3.a to the canal, from where they had to fall back owing to heavy enfilade fire from the direction of CALONNE-SUR-LA-LYS.  Again they were reformed and took up a position W of LE SART.  The bridge at K.33 by which the Canal was crossed, was subject to very heavy machine gun fire by the enemy.  Our position at LE SART came under fire from hostile field guns at point blank range.  Early in the evening the 5th [Division] came up and passed through our Battalion, when orders were received to withdraw to Billets at ST VENANT.  
  LA HAYE 13-15 April The Battalion had been so badly scattered that it was only possible to muster 60 other ranks and 5 officers.  At 9 a.m. on 13th, the Battalion took up a position near LA HAYE P. 5. c and became Brigade Reserve.  Here they remained during the period 13th/15th improving the position. [ Following line illegible].   
  15-20 April On the night of 15th the Battalion, with one company Royal Scots attached for tactical [operation?] relieved the 8th A & S H in the left Subsector.  A party consisting of 2nd Lt Emerson, Sgt Annand and 3 men endeavoured to set fire to a house in No Mans Land opposite our left flank at midnight 16/17th.  But the exploit failed owing to machine gun fire from the house.  An inter company  relief in accordance [order number unclear] was carried out on night of 17/18th.  The tour of duty in the front line passed without incident of any importance and on 20/21st the Battalion was relieved by 9th Royal Scots, and moved back to billets in ST VENANT.  During the relief, considerable hostile shelling took place in the vicinity of Bn. HQ, gas shells being used.  Fighting strength 7 officers and 182 other ranks.   
Rt. SUE SECTOR  21-26 April  

 The 21st and 22nd were devoted chiefly to interior economy, repair of clothing etc.  On the night of 22/23rd the Right Sub sector was again taken over from 8th A & S H.  Harassing fire on enemy approaches etc by our artillery and destructive fire by trench mortars were the chief features during the period 22/26. Enemy activity was normal and confined chiefly to artillery shoots on ST FLORIS and ST VENANT.

ST VENANT   27-30 April   On the night of 26/27th, the Bn was relieved 9th Royal Scots and moved back to billets in ST VENANT.  Throughout the night 26/27th, the enemy intermittently shelled the town with gas shells, several shells hitting the building in which the Battalion was billeted.  During the early part of the night, box respirators were worn, but the men eventually went to sleep in the cellars with them off.  As a result of this, considerable casualties were sustained the gas having drifted into the cellars during the night.  More than one form of gas appeared to have been used, but chiefly Mustard Gas which affects the eyes and causes vomiting.  Considerable shelling of the town took place during the period the Battalion remained in Billets there.  On the night of 30th, the Battalion again moved into the front line, in the Right Subsector, with C Coy  8th A & S H attached for tactical [purposes?]
Total casualties from this [gas] shelling 4 officers and 106 other ranks.  None appeared to be serious but all were evacuated from C.C.S. 

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Carolyn Morrisey